Andreas Immanuel Graae
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Swarm of steel
Insects, drones and swarming in Ernst Jünger’s The Glass Bees
in Drone imaginaries
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Since ancient times, insect swarms have triggered uncanny emotions such as anxiety, paranoia and panic within human communities. During the twentieth century, this imagination revived as it merged with fantasies of autonomation and emergent behaviour among intelligent machines. As an eager entomologist with a keen eye for technology’s impact on the human, the German author Ernst Jünger put these ambivalent emotions into literary form in his futuristic novel The Glass Bees (1957), which features advanced robotic bees hardly distinguishable from today’s micro-drones. This chapter investigates Jünger’s novel as an early literary work on drone technology and situates it in the proper historical context as it arrives in a dawning era of computers, networks and automation. The drone swarms in the novel can be seen as something inherently uncanny, which evokes feelings such as paranoia and anxiety – emotions that are easily associated with the authoritarian community where this drone technology is used. Focusing on the figure of the swarm, the chapter thus discusses how Jünger’s artificial bees foreshadow today’s drone technologies and the prospects of swarming robots in warfare as well as everyday life.

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Drone imaginaries

The power of remote vision


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